Dundee scientists lead new study to make treatments safer

Thousands of people with heart disease suffer severe adverse reactions to some of the main drugs – statins and ACE inhibitors – that are used to treat it.

Now a new European-wide study led by the University of Dundee is set investigate whether genetic research could be used to predict these side effects.

“Statins and ACE inhibitors are the most effective drugs at preventing cardiovascular disease, but they need to be used better,” said Professor Colin Palmer, from the University of Dundee, who is leading the new study. “There are millions of people being treated with these drugs in the UK alone and a significant number of them will suffer some pretty nasty reactions.

“This not only results in harm to the patients but it also leads to the treatment being discontinued and therefore placing them at greater risk of problems arising from heart disease.”

With the advent of affordable whole genome sequencing, genetic research is now at the point where it can be effectively used to identify `biomarkers’ which signal whether a patient can take the drugs safely or not.

The aim of the trial is to identify reliable biomarkers which could then be developed into a commercially available clinical test.

Partners in the study include the Universities of Liverpool, Utrecht, Uppsala and the private sector firms PGXIS and Asper Biotech. The study is funded with a €3million grant through the European Union FP7 Health project.

Around one per cent of patients receiving ace inhibitors will suffer angioedema, a reaction which causes swelling around the mouth and lips. A smaller ratio of people – around 1 in 1000 – taking statins will suffer myopathy, which causes muscle weakness and damage.

With millions of people being prescribed these drugs, it means thousands are suffering these adverse reactions.

“We are at a stage in genetic research where the advent of affordable whole genome sequencing gives us new opportunities to see whether people are predisposed to these kinds of reactions when given these drugs,” said Professor Palmer. “If we can successfully identify the genetic factors at play we can then develop a test which could predict a patient’s reaction to the drugs.

“That would make the drugs far more effective in that we could ensure the right patients are being given the right drugs and not the ones that may cause them pretty serious problems.”

The study is looking to work with 500 people around Europe who have suffered statin-induced myopathy, and a further 500 who have experienced angioedema brought on by ACE treatments.

“ We already have over 10% of the population of Tayside participating in genetic research, and this has attracted this important EU funding to Tayside researchers. With GoSHARE we hope that everyone in Tayside will take part by signing up online giving researchers the permission to use spare blood from routine clinical testing and to facilitate bigger and better studies in the future “

Researchers for around the EU participating in this programme will be meeting on the RMS Discovery this week to discuss these studies.

Yet again the city of discovery leads the way.

University of Dundee Press Release

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